Papaw and the Atheist

Papaw and the Atheist June 4, 2018

Doing Right is Winning 

Papaw and Granny Reynolds at their fiftieth wedding anniversary! Winning!

Winning does not mean getting rich or famous because good, true, beautiful people do not always “win” that way in this life.

Papaw worked at Dupont, a job he appreciated even if it contributed to a difficult death.* He did well even to the point of being paid for an invention that saved many men bruised knuckles when trying to remove pipes. Papaw showed me the drawings he made.

The laborers at the plant were mostly Christian, but his immediate boss was an atheist. Go read Patheos non-religious and you will  know what the men faced. Come Christmas and the boss would start talking about how Jesus was just a “b-s-rd” and propose lewd theories about his conception.

Men needed jobs then, just as now, so most were silent. Papaw was not. Without being angry, he spoke up and said something on the lines of this: “You would find a lot of good if you could find faith in that baby in a manager.”

I would like to say that this went well, but promotions dried up. This was not an era where you complained, had HR, or a legal team to help. Papaw just took it and as far as I know did not worry about it.

He stood for the truth as he understood it. His stand did not result in conversion or a “big victory,” but he stood tall.

Be like Papaw.

And of course there is the obnoxious equivalent of Papaw’s atheist boss (and #notallatheists). A good Christian friend told me about a manager who would not stop leaving Gospel messages on everyone’s desk while being a terrible human being to everyone in the office. My friend had to take a stand, too.

It did not go well there either.

Be like my friend.

Doing right is winning.

Get a Core and Act on It

My dad spoke recently on Papaw’s life, told his story, and made this point: you cannot take a stand if you have no core. If you have a bad central idea, or if you do not live out what you believe (as my friend’s “Christian” manager did not), then the best core is not good.

Both Papaw and my friend had a core commitment: Jesus is Lord. They acted on this commitment based on best reason and experience. They did right and they did not expect everything to turn out right. The world is broken. Good people do what they can and then live as they must.

So I say this to self:

Never be the kind of Christian (or atheist) who is negative and attacks others as the central feature of  your intellectual or professional life. If you find yourself against more than you are for, listen to some old hymns, some Paul Simon, or just go for a walk. Recall that love of God and love of neighbor cannot be for “winning,” control, or even building bigger Christian things.

Papaw won without winning.

Focus on the core: love Jesus, love my neighbor. 


*He was buried alive while digging a trench. The shovels digging him out knocked him in the head, hard. The treatment at the time was sending a man home. The chemical safety features of the plant were such that a good worker could set the river on fire by throwing in a bucket of coal. Libertarians take note. Government can make some things better!

** Thank you, Dad, for an inspiring sermon! And I hope I got the oral history right.

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